Townsend woman tries to get refund from roofing contractor

Townsend woman tries to get refund from roofing contractor who didn't start work

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Gertrude Lail received a check last March from her insurance company to repair the damaged roof on her home in Townsend. Gertrude Lail received a check last March from her insurance company to repair the damaged roof on her home in Townsend.
The roof was temporarily patched recently, but not replaced by Mike Tipton whose contract for a new roof was $7,000. The roof was temporarily patched recently, but not replaced by Mike Tipton whose contract for a new roof was $7,000.
"I've paid him five months, starting in May," Gertrude Lail said. "I decided I'm not going to send him any more money." "I've paid him five months, starting in May," Gertrude Lail said. "I decided I'm not going to send him any more money."
Mike Tipton's place of business is a mobile home in Greenback. Mrs. Lail says she tried calling all summer but couldn't get through. Mike Tipton's place of business is a mobile home in Greenback. Mrs. Lail says she tried calling all summer but couldn't get through.
6 On Your Side discovered she couldn't get through on the business phone line because no one lives at the home anymore. Everything inside has been removed. 6 On Your Side discovered she couldn't get through on the business phone line because no one lives at the home anymore. Everything inside has been removed.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

TOWNSEND (WATE) - How many months are you supposed to wait on a contractor to get your roof fixed when he has a big chunk of your money in advance?

A Townsend woman was told by a local contractor that he would start work on her roof within weeks of signing the deal.

Typically, roofing contractors request a down payment before their work begins. Most will ask for one third to 40 percent of the total amount in advance, but the contractor hired to work on a house in Townsend received nearly all of his money up front.

Gertrude Lail received a check last March from her insurance company to repair the damaged roof on her home in Townsend.

She hired a local roofer, Mike Tipton, in April. Mrs. Lail had worked with the Tipton family before when she and her late husband built their home nestled close to the majestic Smokies.

The roof was temporarily patched recently, but not replaced by Tipton whose contract for a new roof was $7,000.

"I didn't have but $6,300-something. So, I gave him the check from the Farm Bureau," she said.

The check was worth $6,326.86 to be exact. That figure amounts to 90 percent of $7,000 paid up front.

"I trusted him," she said. "So, I figured he'd be here, because he had told me he'd be here at the end of the week."

The end of that week was April 8.

Tipton asked Mrs. Lail to set up a payment plan of $50 a month to pay the $674 she still owed him.

"I've paid him five months, starting in May," she said. "I decided I'm not going to send him any more money."

Lail says Tipton hasn't done any work. 

Mike Tipton's place of business is a mobile home in Greenback. Lail says she tried calling all summer but couldn't get through.

6 On Your Side discovered she couldn't get through on the business phone line because no one lives at the home anymore. Everything inside has been removed.

We talked with Shannon Parker at a second phone number. According Mrs. Lail's note, Parker picked up the Farm Bureau check back in April.

Parker said on the phone that the roofing company is still in business and work should begin "next week," citing "a lot of rain" as the reason for the delay.

Mrs. Lail has heard that line before.

"The end of the next week, you know the end of next week and the end of next week, well, end of next week hasn't got here yet," Lail said.

Mrs. Lail said Mike Tipton's father had worked at their home before, so she trusted the family name.

Shortly after our call, Tipton's mother Wanda called saying her son had hit a rough patch and was sorry he didn't do the work.

Wanda Tipton said she would try to get Gertrude her money within three to four weeks.

"I've waited over five months. I don't want to wait another month so I can get my money back to get my roof fixed," said Lail.

Even with a signed contract and nearly 95 percent of the money in the hands of the contractor, there's no new roof.

"Right now, I'm just at a nervous jerk because it just, it just. And there is not a thing I can do about it. I have begged and done everything that I can do, they have just ignored me," Lail said.

There is something she can do. 

Under the law, a home improvement contractor like a roofer can be charged with theft if he or she fails to start a job within 90 days of a signed contract. Theft is a criminal offense.

In a case like this, the homeowner must send a certified letter requesting a refund. If the contractor either fails to send the money or ignores the letter, then the homeowner can begin criminal proceedings.

Hopefully, Mrs. Lail will get her money back before having to take the next step.     

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